A new media darling is tapping into the wants and needs of an emerging social culture: people who smoke pot, both medicinally and, in a growing number of states, simply to get high.
It's called Cannabis Club TV, or CCTV, the brainchild of Danny Keith and Pete Biggam. The two Santa Cruz partners with tattoos and hipster get-ups happen to be pot consumers themselves for, you know, those nasty aches and pains.
Their goal is to provide a platform for marijuana advertisers to reach potential customers — a burgeoning pot business community that is now, unlike the large U.S. pharmaceutical firms, precluded from such conventional outlets as TV and newspaper advertising.
The idea is so simple that even a couch stoner reeling from a couple of mind-blowing bong hits could understand it: CCTV provides high-definition big screens for the waiting rooms of marijuana dispensaries, where clients will no longer be held hostage by the banter of, say,
FOR THE RECORD: In the Oct. 7 Section A, an article about plans to create a TV channel devoted to marijuana referred to Michele Ross as a "self-professed pot doctor." Ross has a PhD in neuroscience.
New products. Interviews with experts like self-professed pot doctor Michele Ross. Tips on how to beat the munchies on a budget, or how to roll the perfect cylindrical joint. They're looking for first-time auteurs to begin working on marijuana-themed projects.
When it comes to what's on air, there'll be no proverbial stems or seeds, just perfect buds of useful pot-themed programming, Keith and Biggam say. Their service is free to dispensaries, which get a percentage of the advertising sold.
That way, everybody's happy. Nobody is "bogarting" the joint, as they say.
The partners admit their idea is still in the infancy stage: Hey, networks like MTV and ESPN struggled in their infancy, right?
They've lined up a few dozen dispensaries as they continue to seek funding. Right now, they're dispensing their programming in 15-minute blocs, but eventually expect their network to run 24 hours.
In January, they plan an official launch in either Las Vegas or Los Angeles.
"We're in the era of the gold rush for the cannabis community," said Biggam, 35, who has sold digital signage to libraries and sports teams. "The business will grow quickly and we'll change with the times. I envision virtual reality on our network, when viewers will be able to walk through a marijuana farm, smelling the product. Imagine that."
For now, they are constantly searching for those who want a place on their new platform. Over the weekend, they manned a booth at the second annual Hempfest Carnival and Marijuana Expo, held in an open-air parking lot just east of the Strip.
On Saturday night, the place was a pot-smoker's paradise: The strong aroma of cannabis wafted into the early-October air at a scene that boasted all the sophistication of a county fair midway. Rappers belted out pot-themed riffs on two stages.
Young men with cornrows skateboarded past hawkers peddling pot pipes made from pretzels. "Smokes like glass. Tastes like pretzel," the sign read. There were heat lamps for closet growers, solar-powered pipes, marijuana plant trimmers, hemp vodka and ubiquitous Bob Marley-themed T-shirts.
Every one of the night's entrepreneurs is a potential CCTV advertiser, said Keith, a 46-year-old former surf-and-skateboard shop owner. Representatives from the marijuana law reform group NORML stopped by the booth, along with an online cannabis talk show host.
"I think we can promote each other," host Johnni Mathews said. "It's so important for cannabis businesses not to be in the closet, relegated to the Internet. We all need to be visible, as long as we're doing things legally."
On the street nearby, lost stoners poked their smoke-wreathed heads out of car windows and said, "Hey, man, where's Hempfest?" A man walked by in a jumpsuit adorned with a collage of marijuana plants. Twentysomething couples held hands and browsed the booths like grocery store shoppers.
At the CCTV booth, Keith and Biggam discussed what they consider to be their first brilliant marketing strategy: a partnership with actor-comedian
Chong, 77, remains an advocate of legalized marijuana who believes that regular use of the drug helped him beat back prostate cancer in 2012. This year, he announced that he has been diagnosed with rectal cancer and has started a cannabis regimen.
On Saturday, Chong posed with fans right next to the CCTV setup. From his booth, he was selling his product line of papers, rollers and bud grinders.
CCTV plans on using Chong as an emcee for its programming schedule. Soon, a film crew will follow him to dispensaries near his home in Los Angeles for some "on the scene" antics, Keith and Biggam say. They'd also like to feature old Cheech & Chong movies and clips from the team's recent touring performances.
Late that night, the CCTV crew gathered in Chong's RV, where he took a break and described his exhausting day as he met with fans: "Getting stoned, listening to music and trying to understand what people are saying to you when you're really high."
His concept of his role with CCTV remains hazy. "What will I do? You know, read this, read that; talk about new ways to get high, what to do when you're high. You know, let's make a dope deal kind of thing."
Then he went back to his booth to sell pot paraphernalia.
The camera crew followed him, filming scenes that might soon make coach-potato bong-burners laugh out loud.